Processes of institutional redesign are needed to realise ecosystem recovery visions. Illustration by Jeroen Helmer courtesy of ARKNature.

By Paul Jepson.

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The decade of ecosystem restoration signifies the ambition to move from a defensive focus on nature protection to a proactive agenda of nature recovery. The creation of international institutions of nature protection from the 1970s onwards involved simplifying the concept of ecosystems with classifications of habitats and species that enabled strong prescriptive law and measurable policy targets. Advances in restoration ecology and rewilding emphasise the importance of restoring dynamic interactions and missing or dysfunctional ecosystem process. This involves new and innovative approaches that current institutions lack the flexibility and remit to support.

Given this, I argue that scientists and conservation professional need to initiate processes of institutional redesign and it is in our power to do this by adopting empowering and hopeful environmental narratives, advocating for nature innovation areas, developing new functional classifications of nature, creating markets for nature recovery and training officials in the new science of ecosystem recovery.